Monday, January 28, 2013

What Do Cartoons have to do with DBQ - Document Based Questions?

Today I was looking online for lessons dealing with Document Based Questions.  There are some great sites and terrific lessons.  I looked at an example for  2nd graders.  I was over whelmed at the caliber of writing that was expected.  I know it is a worthy goal, but I didn't find lessons developed for these young minds.

Everyone's plate is so full of what has to be taught.  How do you teach kids to analyze documents and then write an essay about it?  So many of the lessons are geared more towards middle and high school students. The question I kept asking myself is how can I break down these steps so my younger kids can analyze documents.  How could I make quick mini-lessons for my kids?

I got to thinking about a recent cartoon that I had torn out of our local paper.   As an adult this strip really connected to me.   It makes reference to a piece of literature I experienced as a youngster.  I don't think many of my students would make the literature connection alluded to in this Wizard of Id strip.  Nor would they get the satire.

I have always been a fan of cartoons. They are a very sophisticated and complex form of reading.  Their success is the background knowledge the reader brings to the table.

My aha moment arrived!  My books on Calvin and Hobbs,  Garfield and other graphic novels are constantly checked out. This is where the scaffolding comes into play. Why not start with some kid friendly "funnies"?

I've decided to start with this Family Circus strip to teach the initial steps in analyzing a cartoon.

I will adapt the National Archives graphic organizer   The original worksheet has three levels.  I will start by working with the first level.  As students become comfortable examining the cartoons and expressing their observations we will move on.

Mini-Lesson of the Day 
5-10 minutes - classroom observations, evidence, examples, discussion. 

Observations -  


What people and objects do you see in this cartoon?
  • Billy
  • Dolly
  • PJ
  • Grandma
  • portable telephone* (land line based)

Locate words or phrases that the cartoonist used to identify things or people?
  • Grandma's phone
  • old fashioned

For Further Reflection  Comics & Literacy  *Good place to start  Interpreting Political Cartoons In the History Classroom -  This is one of my favorites and is a good starting spot for your next tier of scaffolding.

Richard Byrne wrote a great post in Free Technology for Teachers

Library of Congress Teacher's Guide for Analyzing Political Cartoons  Teaching With Cartoons. a post from Kim's Korner Teacher Talk  The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists - Cartoons for the Classroom - Cartoons for the Classroom Analysis Worksheet* This is another good worksheet   Post on Political Cartoons from the blog Teaching with Comics  This is a great resource.    This week in Political Cartoons  Graphic Novels and State Standards


  1. Thanks for sharing all of these great resources on writing with comics! Family Circus is one of my favorites! I never really thought about using comics this way! Great ideas here!

  2. I'm starting a mini reading unit about humor - and this is also a great way to begin! Getting kids to find the "allusions" in a comic helps them begin to pull out what is funny. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing many great resources here.

  4. Ruth, this is a terrific resource for so much. I write a newsletter for my school with links to resources they would enjoy and find useful. This will be shared for sure. I am just this year working with those who teach the younger students, so finding good and thoughtfully appropriate lessons for the primary students has not been easy, as you shared. Thanks for your thinking in this, too!

  5. After reading lots of articles, many people have developed lots of ways to use comics in the classroom. I plan to share more about what I discovered later.


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